An eviction hearing has been scheduled for John Potter, a 92-year-old Zaleski resident and World War II veteran whose daughter seeks to forcibly remove him from the house he built himself.
Potter, former mayor of Zaleski and Vinton County Sheriff, is scheduled to battle his eviction at the Vinton County Common Pleas Court on Oct. 3, according to his attorney Tim Gleeson.
Gleeson told The Courier there has been no agreement made between the two sides throughout the summer to allow Potter to remain living in his home. Next month’s date marks the “next scheduled step,” Gleeson said.
For years, Potter has been embattled in a legal tug-of-war which his attorney called “one of the saddest cases” he’s ever been involved in.
Nearly 10 years ago, Potter gave his daughter Janice Cottrill, also of Zaleski, power of attorney. Potter’s granddaughter, Jaclyn Fraley, told The Courier earlier this summer that Cottrill then secretly transferred the house into her own name.
Years later, the family took Cottrill to court to reverse the property transfer. An initial ruling which sided with Potter was negated when an appeals court ruled the transfer’s statue of limitations had expired, Fraley said.
With the house remaining in her name, Cottrill served her father with an eviction notice, which Potter, Fraley and a wave of nationwide support have sought to keep from coming to fruition.
“I think he loves (the support) and it humbles him at the same time,” Fraley told The Courier. “I’m sure it helps him and it brings a light to his face … it helps us walk through this horrible, horrible thing.”
Fraley managed to raise more than $137,000 online at gofundme.com in a “last-ditch effort” with the hopes of using the money to buy the home from Cottrill. The house was appraised at $50,000, Gleeson said earlier this summer.
A deal fell through when Cottrill and her attorney, Lorene Johnston, responded to a market value offer with one requesting more than twice that amount, Gleeson said.
Cottrill’s attorney said she would not comment on the case, citing confidentiality and not wanting to “negotiate with other legal parties through the newspaper.”
Fraley said she and her grandfather are trying to emotionally prepare themselves for him potentially being evicted from his home a month from now.
Throughout the summer, Fraley has been updating thousands of Facebook supporters on her grandfather, who she said has enjoyed respite in fishing, watching the History Channel and showing off his noted sense of humor.
In a YouTube video answering questions from supporters, Potter was asked to name three wishes he might have.
“First place, my house back … second place, peace in the world,” he said, thoughtfully.
“And what’s your third one?” Fraley asks.
“Well, if we get two out of three, I’m doing pretty good.”
Asked to name his favorite holiday, he grew a wry smile.
“Well, pay day isn’t a holiday,” he mused.
Fraley then asked how he liked his steak cooked.
“In a skillet.”
The eviction’s jury selection is slated for Oct. 3, with a hearing scheduled for the following day, Fraley posted online. She added that she hopes people will come to that hearing to support her grandfather.